An historical black and white photo of Kingsley Hall

A Queer and Political History of Bristol’s Kingsley Hall by Mary Gurdin

25th July 2023

At the centre of Old Market Street, Bristol, lies Kingsley Hall: a beautiful Georgian-esque building, home to the region’s largest youth homelessness charity, 1625 Independent People. Despite not many individuals knowing the full extent of Old Market Street and Kingsley Hall’s historical past, its history is fascinating, as well as significant for understanding Bristol’s political culture today.

A Progressive City?:

At present, Bristol stands as a “progressive” young city, whereby diversity is bustling, and cultural resistance is embraced. In fact, over the years, Bristol’s structure has been built upon opposition to capitalism – with anarchist libraries, independent, cooperative, and community-based cuisines, unions, and cafes thriving in every crevice, and quirky and alternative media being spread around the city. Bristol’s present political reputation, however, is not new founded. From 1911, Kingsley Hall was an important building within Bristol’s fight for social change: the hall became home to the Independent Labour party who hosted meetings, and welcomed social activist groups, such as the Suffragettes. Likewise, today, the Hall is used as a base to implement social justice and prevent youth homelessness.

Old Market Street: A Hotbed of Social Activism:

Kingsley Hall’s location similarly has an influential past. Old market Street was a popular location for the backdrop of socialist revolt. For example, in 1932, the area was used by the public to demonstrate against high-unemployment rates. The street also provided many uses for the public, supplying the city with connections to London and being Bristol’s central marketplace.

The Legacy Lives On:

In light of Kingsley Hall and Old Market’s social history, it’s not surprising that Old Market Street is now deemed as Bristol’s “gay quarter” and that diverse queer culture populates the city.  Since 1977, Bristol has hosted a celebratory pride festival, which has provided a space for individuals to reject heteronormativity and to fight for social justice. Starting just a few minutes from Old Market Street – this year 25,000 people from across the region – celebrated pride, marched for trans rights, and protested against homophobia.

Conclusion:

Old Market and Kingsley Hall’s histories are significant to understanding the contemporary political culture of Bristol. Like in the past, liberal diversity is at the heart of this city: both Bristol, and in particular Kingsley Hall, continue to work towards a more inclusive city by fighting against social inequality and discrimination.

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